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Mournful Congregation : The Incubus of Karma

A beautifully masterful composition from a consistently impressive band: Mournful Congregation's new album.

There's a real air of authority on this release that only an established and respected Doom band can conjure up, in my view. Something as seemingly innocuous as beginning the album with two "intro" tracks smacks of a group that are very comfortable within their own idiom - and they should be. By now, Mournful Congregation have sufficiently experimented enough with their approach to Funeral Doom to know what works and what doesn't. In that process, they've also learnt how to bend the Doom "rules", if you will, making each of their compositions an interesting listen because they're not afraid of juxtaposition. For example, on their last full-length release - 'The Book Of Kings' - they were happy to alternate between softer acoustic sections and whispered vocals to really Doomy "grooves" and much harsher vocals. They didn't seem to struggle with it either, which I admire.

Fast forward seven years and Mournful Congregation have finally released 'The Incubus Of Karma', which is their fifth full-length. I think it's safe to say that I was confident this would at least be a decent release, given the pedigree and consistency of the band, and I was not disappointed on that front. This release is just as spellbinding and powerful as its predecessor was, albeit with a slightly darker atmosphere. At times, The Book Of Kings' felt like it was drifting into a cheesy porno scene with the soaring guitars but that doesn't happen quite as much on 'The Incubus Of Karma'. It's more of an unrelenting yet tortoise-esque assault on the eardrums, which pleases me greatly. Mind you, some pornos please me greatly too so it's win-win, really!

One thing I really like about Mournful Congregation is that they're very full-on. I never get the impression that anything is a two-minute job to them, and that matters to me. In general, I think that bands have to take their time with Doom Metal compositions because they've got to be precise with perhaps some exceptions in the Stoner Doom side of things. Mournful Congregation epitomise such patience and precision, which is largely why I enjoy a lot of their work. Hell, even their song titles and lyrics generally look like they've had to be secretly unlocked in the early hours of the morning in some forsaken library in the middle of nowhere. This review is based on a download so I can't judge their lyrics on this release but I've seen plenty of them in the past. Besides, merely reading the song title 'The Picture Of The Devouring Gloom Devouring The Spheres Of Being' was quite enough for me to need a lie down in a darkened room with some fine Polish vodka!

Musically speaking, I have no real complaints about this album. It's everything you'd expect from what I would personally class as something of a nowadays-juggernaut of the Funeral Doom sub-genre. It's technically pleasing, the songs are structured well (i.e. plenty of time to imbibe between crushing sections, just the right amount of "drama", no overkill, good production), both sets of vocals suit the music - and so on. I feel like they've somehow upped the ante since their last full-length, if only a small amount. A handy example of such would be the Aaron Stainthorpe-esque spoken vocals on 'The Rubaiyat', which I really liked. The atmosphere on this release is generally darker than its predecessor, as I mentioned above, but don't be misled by that - there are some softer/more evocative passages on this release too. Ultimately, what I am trying to say is that Mournful Congregation are always trying to keep their Funeral Doom sounding fresh rather than churning out the same old rubbish and they've accomplished that quite expertly here, yet again.

Other than some song titles being unnecessarily long and other very slight niggles, I find it really hard to list things that I dislike on this album. 'The Incubus Of Karma' is a beautifully masterful composition from a consistently impressive band.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. The Indwelling Ascent
2. Withering Spiritscapes
3. The Rubaiyat
4. The Incubus Of Karma
5. Scripture Of Exaltation And Punishment
6. A Picture Of The Devouring Gloom Devouring The Spheres Of Being

Duration : Approx. 80 minutes

Visit the Mournful Congregation bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-03-30 by Ian Morrissey
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